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Release: April 14, 2000

(NOTE TO EDITORS: A picture and more information on Maria Schneider can be found on the world-wide web at <>)

Music by John Rapson and Maria Schneider will be featured by JCL April 26

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Johnson County Landmark, the top big band in the jazz program at the University of Iowa School of Music, will perform music by John Rapson, the band's leader, and Maria Schneider, a native Minnesotan now working in the New York jazz scene, on a free concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

A major ensemble in the UI School of Music jazz program, Johnson County Landmark (JCL) is a repertory ensemble devoted to the performance of original compositions by jazz masters. JCL has the standard big-band instrumentation, with full sections of reed, brass and rhythm instruments.

JCL's core repertory includes music from the classic big-band repertoire, by masters including Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones and Oliver Nelson, and that is the music they have featured most often in recent concerts. This time Rapson decided it was time to do something he had not before -- feature his own music -- and introduce the music of an important contemporary voice on the jazz scene.

"I tell my bands that we will do the whole history of jazz," Rapson said. "That not only includes Jelly Roll Morton and Fletcher Henderson but also Carla Bley and Maria Schneider and Vinny Golia and Walter Thompson -- anything that has been done by professional musicians on watershed recordings. So in addition to the 'older' repertory material, we have also -- each year -- tried to feature a cutting edge musician.

"I'm sneaking my own material in, one because it's now done -- I've had extra time this year to write -- and two, because the students are having fun playing it. It's an aggressive program and the students have enjoyed the challenge of preparing it."

The program will include three works from Schneider's album "Evanescence" -- "Wyrgly," "Evanescence" and "Gush" -- and four works by Rapson -- "Riff Bass Bridge Head," "Virile (for McCoy Tyner)," "Paradox" and "Glide."

Schneider has led her own band in New York since 1989. Her music career started at the age of five when she heard stride jazz pianist Evelyn Butler. "Smitten from the first moment I heard her lay into a keyboard, I had to study with her," Schneider has said. "Over the next 13 years she whetted my curiosity for how music works by teaching me classical and jazz theory from lesson one. For me, she was Wisdom's most treasured resource."

While picking up a degree in theory and composition from the University of Minnesota, Schneider developed an admiration for the great jazz composers the eventually led her to the University of Miami and the Eastman School for jazz studies. Pursuing her interest in jazz, she moved to New York and sought out Bob Brookmeyer as a mentor. "Bob's ingenuity, his ideas about minimizing materials and developing a sense for form, and the wonderful spirit and drama of his music opened a new world," Schneider said.

Her New York connections next gave Schneider an opportunity to work with legendary jazz arranger and pianist Gil Evans on several projects, including the film score for "The Color of Money" and arrangements for Sting's European concert with the Gil Evans Orchestra. "Gil's spirit and music are part of me, and our relationship is one I'll always treasure," she said.

Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music as director of jazz studies in August 1993. A recording artist for the Sound Aspects and Nine Winds labels, he is a composer and trombonist whose work mixes ethnic and experimental elements with more conventional jazz forms. His recent experimental jazz recording "Dances and Orations" has been hailed as "one of the most vital CDs to come around in a long time" in Jazziz and as "a conceptual and musical triumph" by Josef Woodard in the Independent. The CD scored 10 out of 10 for artistic merit in Grammophone magazine's "Good CD Guide" for jazz recordings, which also called it "beautiful and unique."

Previous albums under Rapson's direction are "Bing" for Sound Aspects, and "Buwah" and "Deeba dah bwee" for Nine Winds. He has also recorded "A Mingus Among Us" and "Been There, Done That" with JCL.

His professional career began in Los Angeles, where he formed an octet and performed with some of the leading jazz artists for both recording dates and live performances. He worked with some of the leading jazz artists on the West Coast, including Bobby Bradford, Vinny Golia, Tim Berne and Bill Frisell.

While he continued to record and perform on the jazz circuit, Rapson also taught music theory and composition at Westmont College in Santa Barbara for 10 years. He later taught jazz at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He performed extensively on the East Coast, including recording sessions with Anthony Braxton, Doc Cheatham, David Murray and Julius Hemphill.

JCL has been performing at the UI since the 1960s. The group has traveled to jazz festivals in the United States and Europe, picking up awards on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1991 the group was selected the best band in its class at the 25th annual Wichita Jazz Festival in 1991. Since then, individual members of JCL have continued to win major awards and contests. In 1994, members of the group took top awards in the International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Competition and the Jazz Composition Competition sponsored by California State University at San Diego.

The group's most recent recording, "A Mingus Among Us," was described as "over 70 minutes of sweet, sophisticated jazz classics" in ICON magazine, and River Cities Reader commented that "JCL, the top big band for the University of Iowa School of Music, captures the power of Mingus' music wonderfully."

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